There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. (Luke 16:19-22)
This was a story told by Jesus. What a contrast between these two men!
* The rich man had fine clothes – purple and fine linen, Lazarus had little clothing, because his sores were visible.
* The rich man lived in luxury, Lazarus lived in abject poverty.
* The rich man had an estate with a gate, Lazarus begged in the street.
* When he died, the rich man was buried. No mention is made of a burial when Lazarus died.
In those days people believed that if you were rich or fortunate, God was blessing you, but if you were poor or had troubles, God had withdrawn his favour or was judging you. As Jesus began his story, this is what his hearers expected him to say. But he turned these ideas on their head.
In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ (Luke 16: 23-31)
Here we see that when it comes to their eternal destination,
* it is Lazarus who is in heaven, and the rich man is in hell.
* Lazarus has comfort and the rich man is in agony.
* Notice too that Lazarus is named in the story, but the rich man has no name.
Yet the rich man calls Abraham father. He wants Lazarus to serve him. He thinks he still has rights, his brothers have rights. He still thinks his wealth gives him status.
Jesus had told his followers before that riches did not mean you were right with God.
Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh… But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.’ (Luke 6:20,21,24)
The poor, the hungry and the weeping are blessed because they look to Jesus for their riches, comfort and joy. The rich look to their wealth for these things and don’t feel they have need of Jesus. That’s why Jesus said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’
The disciples were amazed at his words.
But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?’
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’ (Mark 10:23-27)
What are you relying on for your riches, comfort and joy? Is your treasure in heaven?
[From a sermon by Pete Orphan at Hebron Hall, Dec 2013]